Another summer and kids are starting to die almost daily because the temperature is heating up and what didn’t injure them earlier in the year is lethal now. Last week alone, 4 children died from being left unattended in hot vehicles. To date, 12 children have died in 2018 from being left in vehicles; outside temperatures ranged from 81° to 99°, though in previous years, children have died when temps have been in the 60s and 70s. Children’s body temperatures heat up 3 to 5 times faster than adults’ so organ damage can happen quickly.
A vehicle’s interior can increase in temperature by 19° in 10 minutes and go up another 10° after another 10 minutes. Within only 20 minutes, your car’s interior temp has increased by 29°—if it started at 70°, it’s now 99° and roasting. It’s only up from here.
It’s easy to make parenting judgments about the parents who left their children in vehicles, how awful they are and that they should never have been parents in the first place. But there is science behind how the brain works and how it can forget really important things—like kids—when it has been stressed or exhausted or out of a routine. If you aren’t the first to realize your brain may react this way, your child is at risk too.
Here are 10 important tips to help prevent more tragedies:
- If your child is missing, check your pool first, then your vehicle (including the trunk!)—check neighbor’s pools and vehicles second.
- Arrange to have your childcare provider contact you when your child doesn’t show up that day. Make sure they have multiple contact numbers to call/text and that they keep calling until they reach a live person.
- Keep all vehicles LOCKED at all times, even when they are in the garage and keep your keys/key fobs out of reach.
- Keep your wallet AND cell phone in the back seat when you are driving.
- Utilize available technology: Some Evenflo carseats, the Cybex Sirona M, and the Baby Trend Secure Snap Fit have technology available to let you know if your child has been left in the carseat. Some vehicles also have backseat reminders, and Hyundai is anticipating adding a rear seat sensor system in some 2019 model year vehicles.
- Another option, put one shoe in the back seat when you are driving—you’re not going to walk away from your vehicle without your other shoe!
- Make it a habit to always look in the back seat when getting out of the car.
- Teach your children that it’s NEVER okay to play in the car or to go into the car to get something without a grown-up.
- Teach your children NEVER to hide in the car or inside the trunk.
- However, also teach your children to blow the horn repeatedly to attract attention if they are ever trapped inside a vehicle.
And don’t forget about pets and the elderly! All of these populations have bodies that heat up faster than healthy adults and they cannot handle the heat as well. We may intend to run into the store for only 5 minutes, but circumstances may change and that quick trip may end up taking 15 minutes. It’s better to err on the side of safety and not risk a life.
Infographics provided by noheatstroke.org, run by meteorologist Jan Null. He keeps this website up-to-date with the sad statistics and other scientific data regarding hot vehicles.